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Inexpensive Calligraphy Pens


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#1 Ashland

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 02:55

In March I was brought over to the dark side of fountain pen nibs by a pen dealer & now write almost exclusively with stubs and italics. Pens with these types of nibs as a standard option arenít as easy to find as one might think. Life was so much easier when pen selection was based on color, overall pen size, and a decision between a F, M, or B nib. Because of their cost, my nicer stubs wonít see the inside of my workplace. I want pens I can use every day with little fear of loss or damage, that lend my handwriting more flair, and fit in my jeans pocket. Between April and October, I sought out all the inexpensive, unusual nibs I could find. Here are my experiences.

Obliques
Once I tried specialty nibs, I wanted to test more. The only new pens with left-foot oblique nibs I found were in Pendemoniumís italic section. I havenít seen any for less than $35. I didnít want to spend more than $15 on a pen I might not like. I traded pens with a nibmeister & had a 17-degree, left-foot oblique ground for me.

Lesson Learned:
Unless youíve had someone diagnose your handwriting as being suitable for using an oblique, I would not recommend having one ground. Itís easier & more fun to write with a nib agreeable to oneís writing style. It still enjoy this pen, though.

Eastern Calligraphy Pens
I bought a Sailor Special Script calligraphy pen for $12.95. I now know that I was being very silly at the time, but as a relative newbie I was hoping to somewhat recreate the effect of a copperplate nib. As this pen allows the user to vary the stroke width, I thought I had a chance of achieving what I wanted. I was sadly mistaken. I use the pen only with my standard writing angle. At other angles the bold result is not something I would consider professional enough and some positions would be too painful for my wrist to maintain long enough to complete a message. The pen writes well, and because of this Iíd one day like to try other Sailor pens. I enjoy seeing how much ink I have available.

Lesson Learned:
This pen is too long for me to put into my pocket, and it doesnít have a clip. This makes it difficult for me to carry. The nib is fun to play with, but it isnít something Iíd use every day. Other Eastern calligraphy pens are available at higher & lower costs and with nicer features. Visit http://www.hisnibs.com or http://www.isellpens.com.

Standard Calligraphy Pens
Although purist may disagree, one pen seller I corresponded with told me that an inexpensive way to try more stub nibs would be to buy a calligraphy set.

Manuscript Calligraphy Pens
Iíve found Manuscript calligraphy pens at Michaelís and Hobby Lobby. See a review at http://www.fountainp...?showtopic=5939
I like being able to swap different nibs with the barrel, and I feel the pens are good value for money. If you want to try very small italic nibs, the standard kit has a 0.85mm fine. To experience a 0.6mm, you can buy just the nib from Pen & Ink Arts, http://www.paperinkarts.com/shop.html. I havenít found any cheaper way to try a nib of this size.

Lesson Learned:
Most of the time, my extra fine nib and sometimes the fine have to be flicked hard to enable the ink to flow all the way to the tip of the nib. When these nibs are being finicky, I can see that the ink has stopped halfway down the slit. Writing with these pens for a long time can hurt my fingers because of the facets on the barrel; initially I liked these facets.

Manuscript Italic Calligraphy Pens
A version of the Manuscript calligraphy pen larger than the ones available in kits & with a slip cap is sold individually. It is frequently in my rotation. With an unadorned black barrel & cap and a gold clip, it is nice enough to take anywhere.

Lesson Learned:
Iíd buy this one again if I were just starting out. I much prefer it to its smaller Manuscript cousins.

Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy Pens
I have two of these. They can be found at office supply and craft stores. The pros are that I can see the amount of ink left; the clips are sturdy; the rubberized grip is nice; nibs are interchangeable; and ink cartridges are readily available from common sources. Cons: The ink cartridges are not of a standard size; the barrel can crack if the nib is screwed on too tightly; and I wish the pen were a little slimmer.

Lesson Learned:
Buy one or a set. Theyíre inexpensive, reliable, and easy-to-find.

Lamy Calligraphy Nibs
Iíve added Lamy Joy bright steel nibs in the 1.1mm size to two of my Lamy Safaris. The nibs are tough, reliable, and add a bit of sparkle to a plain Safari. The nibs are sold individually for around $12 in a variety of sizes from Pendemonium and from James at The Pear Tree Pen Company (contact James as the nibs arenít yet on the website). If you donít like the nib after buying it, itís easy to switch back to your normal nib. Lamy Joy nibs can also be used with Lamy Al-Stars and Vistas.

Lesson Learned:
This is a great way to try a crisp italic nibóif you already own a Safari.

Staedtler Comfortable Rubber Grip Calligraphy Set
This is a 33-piece set in a metal storage tin with 4 swirl-patterned plastic pens, 5 nibs from extra fine to extra broad, 20 short international ink cartridges, a converter, an instruction book, and practice paper. Mine was $16.99 from Hobby Lobby. You can usually download a 40 percent off coupon from http://www.hobbylobby.com for use at a store. One of the most frequently used pens in my daily (work) rotation is the black and white swirl pen with a fine nib. The shiny, probably faux gold nib is smoother than any of my other inexpensive calligraphy nibs. It is a true joy to use. I like looking down and seeing what Iíve written reflected in the nibís mirror finish. I havenít tried the converter or any of the other nibs although Iíve owned the set for months. I keep too many pens in rotation as it is, and with a pen this nice, I just havenít bothered to try another. One day I will try the extra fine. I havenít seen another set that has such a broad nib range as standard. The pens are slim. They have gold clips and gold accent rings at the end of the sections. As a work pen, my favorite Staedtler has stood up well to the jeans pocket testóitís neither too bulky nor too hard to disengage. It has a slip-on cap. For those with champagne tastes & a beer budget, this is the calligraphy pen set to buy.

Lesson Learned:
Excellent value, great looks for the money. Iíd recommend this set over any of the other calligraphy pens Iíve mentioned regardless of price.

Ashland

#2 *david*

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:32

Ashland - thanks for the reviews!

A quibble - I don't think I would call the Lamy Joy nibs "crisp" at all. The thin strokes are not particularly thin.

#3 DRP

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:37

Most informative. Thanks for a good review.

#4 guitarman19853

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:41

I just bought a set of the Sheaffer Viewpoints today. They all write decently. The medium and the bold take more pressure than I am used to and, for me at least, are not suited to everyday writing. however, the fine is very smooth and could easily be used as an everyday pen. They are all effective as calligraphy pens if you take your time.

Edit: oh and one small disclaimer: Although the fine point pen is smooth enough and fine enough to be useable, remember that it is not tipped with anything and is just stainless steel.

Does anyone know what kind of converter would fit in these? If i can't find one, i'll probably just refill the cartridges when they are empty.

Edited by guitarman19853, 09 January 2007 - 03:49.

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#5 Ashland

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 14:18

I should have added that I use the fine or extra fine from all the sets I've bought, & I use these for everyday cursive writing. I don't actually do calligraphy. The mediums, bolds, & extra bolds don't leave the packages. The one exception is a medium nib on the Manuscript Italic.

guitarman19853, call Pendemonium about a converter for the Viewpoint. The last time I asked, they had one.

David, let me dig around my source material about the crisp italic.

Ashland

#6 Kay

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 17:12

Last week I was in an art supply store and they had a display to try out Pilot Parallel pens, and they are AMAZING. They are unique, the nib is actually two parallel plates and the ink flows between them. They come with cartridges of very smooth-flowing ink that is NOT fountain-pen friendly, a special cleaner to slide between the nib plates, and a converter for cleaning or using with other ink or whatever. All for under $20.

Because the unique nib has no "top" or "bottom" they can be rotated completely, from thin horizontals to thick, and will write perfectly

this link tells more about them, they normally come in 4 widths, 1.5, 2.4, 3.8, and 6.0 mm, plus this place has some that have been specially cut down to 1.0 mm.

http://www.paperinka...us/dept_69.html

Warning: these pens are not pretty, but they write so SMOOOOOTH and crisp.
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#7 Ashland

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 18:58

David,

I purchased a 1.1mm bright steel finish Lamy nib from Pendemonium.

When I asked what type of italic nib I had bought, I was told the following:

"The Lamy italic nibs are referred to as 'sharp' or sometimes 'crisp' italics."

Kay, thanks for telling me about the 1.0mm Pilot Parallel pens.

Regards,
Ashland

#8 CD7

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 17:04

Nice reviews Ashland.
I dropped my Lamy Al-Star right out of the package and it's never written very well.
I'll have to pick up a Lamy Calligraphy Nib to put in there.
Didn't know they were exchangeable.
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#9 MT4

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 17:52

I can get a cheap calligraphy set (4 pens with F, M, B and 2B nibs) for about $15-$25, unknown brand. They are actually 4 main sections with only one cap and upper cover.

I was tempted... except for the fact that I don't know what to use them for. Anybody there knows how could I learn, let's say, gothic calligraphy? How long should it take to a normal guy to get used to it? It would be about twice as long for me wink.gif ...

Thanks to all.

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#10 *david*

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 18:10

MT4 - if you want to be an expert, you should take calligraphy classes with somebody good. If you just want to do a little writing for fun, you can get books that show you the correct sequence of pen strokes to make those letters. Look in stores where they sell calligraphy pens and they will usually have at least a basic little how-to pamphlet.

#11 FrankB

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:29

I have had varying luck with inexpensive calligraphy pens. Some have been outright turkeys. I won't spend time on them. The best luck I have had has been with Rotring "Art Pens," Pelikan "Script" pens, and the Filcao "Calligraphica" set. These pens all write with good crisp line variation, they are reliable and thus far durable, and because of these traits they are fun.

#12 Judybug

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 13:24

QUOTE(guitarman19853 @ Jan 8 2007, 09:41 PM)
I just bought a set of the Sheaffer Viewpoints today.† They all write decently.† The medium and the bold take more pressure than I am used to and, for me at least, are not suited to everyday writing.† however, the fine is very smooth and could easily be used as an everyday pen.† They are all effective as calligraphy pens if you take your time.

Edit: oh and one small disclaimer:† Although the fine point pen is smooth enough and fine enough to be useable, remember that it is not tipped with anything and is just stainless steel.

Does anyone know what kind of converter would fit in these?† If i can't find one, i'll probably just refill the cartridges when they are empty.

I use my F nib Sheaffer Calligraphy pens quite a bit for every-day writing. Yesterday I brought one out of retirement. Writing with it on a brown paper bag did quite a bit to make it smoother. wink.gif I do wish these had converters. I make it a point to save all used cartridges and flush them with clear water and a syringe. I let them dry thoroughly. Then I can refill them with whatever ink I'm in the mood for, using the syringe.

Ashland - thanks for this review. It's very thorough and well-written.

Judybug

Edited by Judybug, 28 January 2007 - 13:26.

So many pens, so little time!

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#13 Whome

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 05:26

Judybug,

I purchased three standard piston converters from Pendemonium for my Sheaffer Calligraphy set. They work Great!

#14 cheshirebowman

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 23:07

I must echo the praise of the Pilot parallel pens, they are superb! I am not so enthusiastic about the pilot cartridges. I find that they 'bleed' very easily, and this is on papers that I have not had a problem with when using other pens, including conventional fountain pens, dip pens, or calligraphy pens (I also have a set of Rotring calligraphy pens)


I have found a solution!!!
Having used FW acrylic inks for some time I love the colours and the fact that they are waterproof when dry. I use the eye-dropper in the top of the bottle to fill the 'squeeze fill' that comes with the parallel pens - described as being used for 'cleaning'
The fact that they ARE waterproof when dry can lead to problems, as I found out when I left one out with the cap off - drat the phone

I tried many things to clean the pen without success so laid it aside 'just in case' Some weeks later, I was cleaning my writing desk at home - covered in a laminate - trying to remove the drops of dried FW ink and other associated grime. I tried conventional cleaners which shifted some of the dirt, so I went to the kitchen and returned with 'Mr Muscle Kitchen Cleaner' (No connection or association with the product, the distributors or manufacturers) Much to my amazement, the spots of FW ink were wiped away, no problem!
I took the, by now very, dried up parallel pen and took it apart, popped the bits into a glass jar, squirted in the cleaner and saw all the ink dissolving. Following a further clean with all components apart, encouragement from an old toothbrush, the pen was as clean as it was when new

Caution: 1; ALWAYS rinse the pen VERY thoroughly after cleaning, or the new ink will blead and be slow to dry

2; DO NOT use the variety that contains bleach you may find that your ink fades somewhat!

3 BE GENTLE when taking the parallel pen apart - it CAN be damaged

Hope you find this of interest



#15 DRP

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 07:23

The Sheaffer caligraphy pens which are based upon the No Nonsense design will accept a standard Sheaffer converter. I tried taking a converter out of a Sheaffer Targa and it fit in the No Nonsense calligraphy pen perfectly.

In fairness, the converter costs as much as a No Nonsense pen though one converter can be moved from one pen to another. I wouldn't try this hundreds of times because the converter's seal will inevitably wear out at some point. However, at least the option is there and with that option, you can use any fountain pen ink by any reputable manufacturer in the calligraphy pen. For example, I tried using Private Reserve Plum in a couple of the Sheaffer calligraphy pens and got great results for addressing envelopes.

I've heard -- though do not know -- that Sheaffer owner Bic/Bich is no longer using the No Nonsense design for their calligraphy pens. If that is the case, my promise that you can use a Sheaffer converter may or may not be valid. At least the older sets which are still available in most stores look like Sheaffer No Nonsense pens so those will certainly work fine. Perhaps someone else could address this question.

Sheaffer converters are still available. There are several pen dealers who post messages on FPN who keep the converters in stock. So that I don't inadvertently overlook one of the dealers, I will not mention any names but I know there are at least three or four and probably more than that. I suggest posting a message in the "Marketplace" if you'd like to buy a Sheaffer converter or two and I'm sure that dealers or individuals will respond.

I agree that the Sheaffer calligraphy pens are reasonably priced and at least the ones which are No Nonsense pens are of very high quality. These are very low cost pens that you can play with -- use occasionally -- and not feel as though you have gone through much money.

#16 rroossinck

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 11:50

QUOTE(DRP @ Jun 7 2007, 02:23 AM) View Post
I agree that the Sheaffer calligraphy pens are reasonably priced and at least the ones which are No Nonsense pens are of very high quality. These are very low cost pens that you can play with -- use occasionally -- and not feel as though you have gone through much money.


Absolutely agreed. Great little pens, and it's so easy to find them! It's too bad that Sheaffer didn't price the set just a smidge higher and include a converter. I think that in some of their higher-end sets, they do, but it's also loaded with cartridges, too (and costs a good bit more - $30-35 as opposed to $8-10).

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#17 czanguine

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 09:51

Intending to buy a calligraphy set, and the Sheaffer Maxi kit is at the topmost part of my list.

My only qualm about it though is that I might not be able to use the standard Sheaffer converter, as the Maxi kit (set of 3 "conventional" pens, cartridges, and instructional booklet, no tin can) does not throw one into the package unlike the Deluxe set. Is this true?

People who have a set of their own, please enlighten me. :)

Edited by czanguine, 05 November 2012 - 09:51.

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#18 brgmarketing

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 13:57

Great review. Particularly like the "lesson learned" sections.

You could check out the Nemosine "Singularity" pen with the .6mm or .8mm italic nib. Recently got the .6 and I love it. You can get them at xfountainpen.com (no affiliation - just a satisfied customer) and they include free shipping over $15.00 (?) or on ebay - fewer color and nib options though.
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#19 MSA

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 02:30

Please try Dollar Calligraphy pen also. These can be bought for 10 to 15 dollars. These are made in Pakistan.
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